Lalli, Casey, Kates (1995)


Reducing escape behavior and increasing task completion with functional communication training, extinction, and response chaining


Lalli, J. S., Casey, S., & Kates, K. (1995). Reducing escape behavior and increasing task completion with functional communication training, extinction, and response chaining. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 28(3), 261–268.


  • Joseph S. Lalli
  • Sean Casey
  • Kelly Kates

Article Info

  • Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (1995)
  • Volume 28, Issue 3,
    pages 261-268

Key Words

  • Aggression
  • Extinction
  • Non-Contingent Reinforcement
  • SIB
  • Tangible Reinforcement
  • Functional Communication Training (FCT)


The effects of functional communication training, extinction, and response chaining on 3 subjects’ escape-maintained aberrant behavior were evaluated using a multielement design. Functional communication training consisted of teaching subjects a verbal response that was functionally equivalent to their aberrant behavior. Subjects initially were allowed to escape from a task contingent on the trained verbal response. In subsequent treatment phases, escape was contingent on the trained verbal response plus the completion of the specified number of steps in the task (response chaining). The number of steps was increased until a subject completed the task to obtain a break. Results showed that the treatment reduced rates of aberrant behavior and that the chaining procedure was effective in decreasing the availability of escape.



This study by Lalli, Casey, and Kates evaluated noncontingent reinforcement as an intervention, first without an extinction component and then with an extinction component. The noncontingent reinforcement interval was at first set based upon latency to the first problem behavior during baseline.

FCT: Target Bx & Alternative Response

The relationship between the target behavior and the alternative response is that the alternative response allows for access to the same consequence as the target behavior. When implementing FCT, the learner is taught to engage in a behavior that results in the desired outcome (same consequence). As the new alternative responses are reinforced, they develop a learning history of contingent reinforcement, making it easier (less effort) to engage in the new behavior. As the target behavior is no longer reinforced, the contingency maintaining that behavior weakens, and is eventually replaced by the alternative behavior.

FCT: Benefit & Weakness

A benefit of FCT is that it is response-dependent, meaning that it can be reinforced and maintained easier and more effectively than interventions that require durations to pass without behaviors for reinforcement to be delivered, such as differential reinforcement of other behaviors (DRO). Otherwise stated, one can reinforce appropriate FCT responses quickly, without needing for the target behavior to have either occurred or not occurred. For example, with DRO, the learner not engaging in the target behavior results in reinforcer delivery, which requires a defined duration to pass prior to reinforcement, while FCT can have numerous reinforcement deliveries within that duration.

A weakness of FCT is that, specifically with escape-maintained behaviors, it can interfere with the learning of other behaviors and reduce opportunities for appropriate responding. For example, if a person has learned to use appropriate requests for escape that are to be reinforced with access to the desired escape, the learner can continue to use their FCT responses to avoid engaging in non-preferred tasks/activities, despite needing to complete them in other learning scenarios.

FCT: How Study Addresses Weakness

The purpose of Lalli et al. (1995) addresses the weakness of escape-maintained behaviors by using FCT paired with extinction. This allows FCT to build appropriate responding, while removing reinforcement of escape-maintained behaviors. This allowed the learner to access escape when requested, without having the ability to completely remove the task or engage in continued avoidance. Also, the use of response chaining created a contingency that more effort was required to obtain additional opportunities to access escape using FCT-learned responses, as steps of a task analysis were completed. The increased effort would then act as an aversive to avoiding completing the component tasks, leading to the completion of the composite task.

Graphs & Figures

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